Ramsgate’s Historic Past in 10 Images

Our new book Ramsgate: The Town and its Seaside Heritage allows readers to delve into Ramsgate’s rich history over the past 300 years from home.

This book is part of Ramsgate’s Heritage Action Zone (HAZ), first launched in April 2017. The five-year HAZ initiative aims to encourage economic growth using the historic environment as a catalyst.

From quiet fishing village to prosperous port and popular seaside resort, here are some of Ramsgate’s architectural highlights:

Clock House

Clock House in Ramsgate harbour
A view of Ramsgate harbour and clock house, with the sea lapping against the slipways © Historic England. Ref: DP247126

This classical clock house was completed in around 1816 by John Shaw senior. The lower flanking wings housed a warehouse and a carpenter’s workshop.

For many years the building served as the Ramsgate Maritime Museum.

Liverpool Lawn

Liverpool Lawn
Liverpool Lawn was planned as a gently curving crescent to exploit sea views from its site, which is set back from the sea front. Note the curved sashes and header bond of the sea-facing, bow-fronted return elevation © Historic England. Ref: DP251331

This speculative development was constructed from 1827–36 by the Ramsgate builder James Crisford. Nos 1–19 (originally Liverpool Terrace) are gently curved to maximise views of the Harbour, while Nos 24–33 (Liverpool Place) are squeezed in across the lawn. The group is completed by the stuccoed Nos 20–22 which face seaward.

St Augustine’s Church

St Augustine's Church
St Augustine’s Church by A W N Pugin. View from the nave looking east towards the chancel and chantry © Historic England Ref: DP247166

In the 1840s Ramsgate became a national centre of the Catholic revival due to the efforts of the architect Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812–52).

Pugin was attracted to Ramsgate on the basis of a mixture of personal associations (his mother’s sister lived at Rose Hill Cottage) and religious ones, chiefly its associations with St Augustine of Canterbury.

St Augustine’s Church (1845–51) was conceived not as a family chapel but as a Catholic church for Ramsgate. It was a courageous decision at a time when the re-establishment of the Catholic hierarchy in England prompted widespread anti-Catholic sentiment.

Christ Church

Christ Church
A view of Christ Church from the balcony of 20 Vale Square (originally 2 Vale Villas). Designed by George Gilbert Scott 1846-7, its tall spire is clad with wooden shingles © Historic England. Ref: DP251329

As the town expanded in the 1840s, subscriptions were raised for new churches. Conceived in an anti-Catholic climate, Christ Church (1846–8) was intended to counter the local influence of A W N Pugin.

It was designed by Gothic Revival architect (Sir) George Gilbert Scott (1811–78) in 1846-7.

Royal Harbour

The 18th century inner basin, Military Road, the Sailors' Home and Church, Smack Boys' Home and the arches of the Royal Parade
Ramsgate’s multi-layered maritime landscape. This view shows the 18th century inner basin, Military Road, the Sailors’ Home and Church, Smack Boys’ Home and the arches of the Royal Parade © Historic England. Ref: DP247152

The harbour contains many listed buildings including the Sailors’ Home and Harbour mission, opened in 1878 – a simple church with a hostel above it – and the Smack Boys’ Home, a hostel for the young crew of the local fishing smacks, opened in 1881 and operated until 1915.

Custom House

Custom House
The domed roof of the 1894-5 Custom House echoes the form of the building it replaced, Wyatt’s pier house © Historic England. Ref: DP251297

One of the boldest gestures of Ramsgate’s turn-of-the-century renewal was the sweeping away of the range containing Wyatt’s pier house, harbour master’s house and warehouses, and its replacement in 1894–5 with a new custom house.

Built in 1894–5 for a cost of £3,800 by the Margate contractors Paramor & Sons, the custom house formed part of a programme of seafront improvement works overseen by the borough engineer W A McIntosh Valon.

East Court

East Court
East Court, by architects Sir Ernest George and Harold Peto, brought the vernacular revival style to the seaside. Drawings of the house were exhibited at the 1893 World Fair at Chicago © Historic England. Ref: DP251112

East Court, of 1889–90 by Ernest George and Harold Peto, is a fine example of the vernacular revival style and one of Kent’s finest Arts & Craft houses.

It was built for the businessman and philanthropist William Henry Wills, first Baron Winterstoke. He bequeathed the house to his adoptive niece, Dame Janet Stancomb-Wills, Ramsgate’s benefactor and first woman mayor.

Ellen Avenue

Ellen Avenue
Ellen Avenue © Historic England. Ref: DP251251

In 1930, in response to the new Housing Act, the borough surveyor drew up a five-year programme of slum clearance and ‘improvement areas.’

The West Dumpton housing scheme was completed in 1938, rehousing 100 families from slum clearance areas. A distinctive block of flats sits on Ellen Avenue, built for older couples, named after Ellen Nixon, a former mayoress of Ramsgate.

Fountain, Victoria Parade

Fountain, Victoria Parade
Fountain, Victoria Parade, part of Ramsgate’s ‘Festival of Light’ © Historic England. Ref: DP251105

Although centred on London’s South Bank, the 1951 Festival of Britain was a national celebration with exhibitions and associated events across the country.

It inspired a number of related celebrations around the country, including a ‘Festival of Light’ in Ramsgate. Announced in December 1950, the scheme was to cost more than £12,500 and designed to highlight the geography of the town.

Three illuminated fountains extended from the Granville Theatre on the East Cliff to the Concert Hall on the West Cliff. This is the sole survivor of the three, original fountains.

Sports hall, Chatham House School

Sport's Hall
The sports hall to Chatham House School is one of Ramsgate’s most distinctive pieces of postwar design © Historic England Ref: DP247255

Chatham House School, Ramsgate’s longest-established educational
institution, was rebuilt in 1879–82 under the direction of the headmaster and owner, the Revd E Gripper Banks.

In 1884 the school gained playing fields through the purchase of part of the grounds of Townley Castle to the north. Completed in 1962 to designs by Kent County Council’s architect’s department, this sports hall occupies the former grounds of Townley Castle.

This blog draws on our publication Ramsgate: The Town and its Seaside Heritage. Photographs taken by Chris Redgrave.

Further Reading

3 responses to Ramsgate’s Historic Past in 10 Images

  1. MAY PULHAM says:

    Love the information about Ramsgate very intresting

  2. Steve hastings says:

    Would like to buy book how can I order it please love ramsgate history..

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